Laptops are ubiquitous, but like most consumer electronics, they have a failing - they quite simply, fail. The 'normal' thing to do, is to take the memory out and simply throw out the rest - I find this notion horribly wasteful.

From experience, when I handed over a laptop to a scrap metal merchant, they gave me some money (by weight) and alluded to the fact that there are some valuable and useful parts that can be retrieved economically. This also suggests a sustainable recycling of the parts of the machine.

Other than the battery, what else can be retrieved from a broken laptop? and how?

4 Answers 4


Electronics contain precious metals (gold, silver, copper, palladium) and these are the main sources of value to a scrapper.

Batteries, lasers from optical drives, sensors, lenses, and other components may be retrievable for re-use or remanufacturing.

For sustainable recycling, look for a recycler who uses a demanufacturing process, rather than a shredding process. Demanufacturing removes individual components and reclaims materials from each component individually. Shredding processes, which are popular in the e-waste industry because they require lower levels of labor and provide efficient space-reduction, do reclaim most of the precious materials but create a higher level of waste.

Finally, ask your recycler where the materials will be processed. There continues to be significant export of e-waste to China and developing countries, and many investigations have found that exported e-waste is often handled in ways that are harmful to the environment and the health of those who work on them.


You could retrieve the hard drive, screen, CD/Optical drives, keyboard, processor and heat sink/fan, wifi board, bluetooth board, motherboard and more. All one needs is a microdriver set and anti-static wristband. I would suggest offering it to a disadvantaged child or an aspiring programmer. Remember to wipe the drive clean of any personal info before handing it off, by either reformatting the drive or better yet using an external USB device loaded with an drive (wiping) erasing program for a thorough erasing of data.

  • 3
    Um, in the question I have stated that it is a broken laptop
    – user1017
    Commented Jan 2, 2014 at 20:28
  • 1
    Even if it is broken, it is quite unlikely that all of those parts are broken.
    – drat
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 13:26

What I've personally noticed, people often seem to call a notebook "broken" when all the machine needs is a really small fix (e.g., keyboard/hard-drive fail), see the many trash picked laptops.

First I would suggest checking whether the laptop can be fixed within reasonable costs. If you personally can't fix it (or have it fixed somewhere cheaply), only then I'd recommend giving the laptop (when really broken) to a recycle centre or the like (e.g., in my country the electronics shops are required to collect and responsibly recycle electronic devices, free of charge for customers).

I hope, these centralized methods of recycling provide a better way to recycle laptops than what you can personally do (at least, after you uninstall memory sticks and HDD, remove the battery and CMOS battery)...

  • Thank you, however, what I am refering to is a totally broken laptop, been checked and cannot be repaired.
    – user1017
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 20:23

You can recycle the screen. But you need to buy a controller to do so.

Here is an how-to in English:


As always, French do it better. So here is a video for the true elite :


  • Welcome to Sustainable Living! I suspect not a lot of people understand French here. Could you summarize the contents of the page you are linking to? This way your answer will remain valuable even if the link breaks.
    – THelper
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 17:14
  • done. In fact I was lazy so I found something in english.
    – Madlozoz
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 9:44
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    Thanks for the English link. It would still be helpful if you'd summarize in your own words the contents of the linked pages. This is good in case the links break, but also because our goal is to build a qualitative good set of Q&A right here on this site. Links should be provided for more detail or background information only.
    – THelper
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 10:34

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